Militant Islamist Ideology: Understanding the Global Threat by Youssef H. Aboul-Enein, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Md., 2010, 272 pages. Hardcover, $37.95.CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The belief that all Muslims fit into a single category of evil-doers who threaten our national security actually threatens our security. Today, the world has 1.5 billion Muslims. The majority do not even live in Arab countries.
And 90 percent of all Militant Islamic websites available on the internet are in Arabic, while others are available in Malay, Urdu and other languages.
A one-dimensional, irrational hatred for all Muslims has captured the thoughts of many Americans since the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon orchestrated by Osama bin Laden, who used militant Islamist ideas to justify his violent actions for many years.
In his new book, "Militant Islamist Ideology: Understanding the Global Threat," Youssef H. Aboul-Enein warns against cultivating simplistic ideas and reaching simplistic conclusions.
"It is better to debate a question without settling it than to settle a question without debating it," he writes in his book published by the Naval Institute Press.
"Militant Islamists alienate not only the United States but even Islamist political groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. It is time for a more nuanced definition of the threat."
Aboul-Enein compares today's anti-Muslim paranoia to the anti-Communist paranoia after World War II.
"We once viewed every communist incursion as a threat to the United States, whether or not it involved actual centers of interest -- a misperception that drove the United States to involve itself in Vietnam."
Some chapters in "Muslim Islamist Ideology" provide such detailed histories of Muslim movements, groups, leaders and sects over the past 1,500 years that they are sometimes hard to understand.
But Aboul-Enein's main points are powerful and compelling.
National security debates in our country would become much more rational if every decision-maker and every citizen read the introduction and many chapters in his book. Aboul-Enein focuses on showing that extremist ideologies that promote violence are rejected by the overwhelming majority of Muslims, as well as by many activist Muslim groups.
"We cannot contain Militant Islamist Ideology but only work to marginalize, de-popularize, and erode its influence and mass appeal, by identifying it as different from Islam or even from Islamist political groups."
"Militant Islamist Ideology," he argues, "is in fact an isolated strain within Salafi Islam, a 'return to fundamentals' movement."
We must become aware of, and reject, the "one extreme of American's national security debate, which is a one-dimensional view that all Islam is evil."
Failing to recognize that makes it much more difficult for us to reach out to the vast majority of Islamic people. It also breeds more hostility to the United States.
Lumping all Muslims into one simply misses "the nuances needed to isolate those who pose a true threat to America's national security."
We must keep an open mind and recognize the wide range of Islamic groups.
"It is in the interest of the United States to assess each Islamist party individually, looking for constructive and nonconstructive elements within their platforms," Aboul-Enein writes.
Al-Qaida will never succeed in appealing to the majority of people living anywhere.
"Al-Qaida hates too many entities and so can never build a grass-roots movement. It is a dead-end ideology."